Whenever violence breaks out in the Middle East, as it has all to often over the past 52 years, it is the Palestinian people who suffered the most. The past seven weeks of unrest have been no exception: Once again, the overwhelming majority of casualties have been Palestinian, mostly unarmed civilians, many under the age of 18. As of writing this, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and 7,000 wounded since the beginning of October.
As if the human pain we have suffered in our ongoing conflict with Israeli is not bad enough, Palestinians have also been subjected to biased, inaccurate and insensitive reporting and commentary by the U.S. media- much of which simply mirrors Israeli propaganda. Of all the misrepresentations made about the Palestinians and their leaders, the most painful is that we are willingly sending our young people out to die, and then "exploiting" their deaths to further our political cause. This accusation borders on racism, for by bringing into question our most basic feelings for our children, it indirectly questions our very humanity. I can only conclude that the purpose of these allegations is to deflect blame away from the inhumanity perpetrated by the Israeli soldiers who are pulling the triggers on the guns that are killing our children. Moreover, by dehumanizing Palestinians, it makes it easier for Israelis and their supporters to justify killing us.
Throughout history, demonstrators for freedom often have been youth, whether in South Africa under apartheid or Eastern Europe under communism, for it is the young people who see their dreams for the future shattered by the forces of occupation and oppression. When these youthful demonstrators have been met by humane police forces, there have been no casualties. Unfortunately, Palestinian youth have been met by tanks, helicopter gunships and sniper fire. Palestinian parents and Palestinian leaders have tried to protect our children. But how can any parent enforce behavior on teenage children who have witnessed their friends and family members being murdered by Israeli soldiers, who provocatively encircle our cities and walk our streets with impunity? Even when parents have succeeded in preventing their children from leaving the house, they have not been safe from Israeli attack. Sara Hassan, an 18 month-old bay girl, was shot while in the back seat of her father's car; Mu'ayyad al-Jawarish, a 12 year-old boy, was shot in the garden of his home by Israeli snipers; and who can forget the horrific sight of 12 year-old Mohammed al-Durra as he was murdered in the arms of his despondent father.
Our critics have even sought to pervert the meaning of our protective actions. When we closed Palestinian schools at the beginning of the recent unrest, we were accused of making it easier for children to demonstrate. In fact, it had become dangerous for children to walk to school because of Israeli sniper fire, and parents could much better control their children if they were at home.
When the Los Angeles riots erupted in 1992, the first thing the late mayor Tom Bradley did was close the schools, yet no one accused him of "stoking violence."
While we have unfortunately not succeeded in keeping our children safe from Israeli bullets, at least we have not done what the Zionist forces did in their struggle against the British in Palestine. Jewish children as young as age 14 were recruited into armed units - such as the Gadna Youth Battalion - and sent on deadly missions. Those who were killed were lauded as "heroes" to the Zionist cause. We will never arm children, nor turn them into soldiers.
In fact, our objective is to bring an end to all conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We wish it were in our control to do so. But as long as Israel maintains its brutal military occupation of Palestine- and as long as armed Israeli settlers are allowed free rein on our land - there will be points of friction that will inevitably spark violence.
In the meantime, the U.S. media should stop dehumanizing Palestinian parents and blaming Palestinian victims for crimes perpetrated by the armed forces of Israel's military occupation forces.